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Should I Be Using Sex Lube? Your Burning Questions Answered

Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Social Psychologist, researcher at The Kinsey Institute

by Dr. Justin Lehmiller 12 min read


Sexual lubrication products are nothing to be ashamed of or intimidated by.

In fact, once you've tried the right one, it might very well become a mainstay in your sex life. For example, Premium Water Lube from Promescent is a pH-balanced formula and makes a great addition to any bedroom.

The truth of the matter is that lube can be a great addition to just about any sexual endeavor you can dream up.

Here's everything you ever wanted to know about sex lube products, why they're important, and how they can be used.

Promescent makes several water and silicone based lubricants that are safe to use with latex condoms

Yes, because the cervix is sealed there is no chance for the lube to come in contact with the baby.

Using a water based lubricant can help reduce friction and in turn reduce the risk of an infection. You will also want to check the ingredients as some lubes contain glycerin or sorbital which may be a cause for concern.

Yes, lubes do have an expiration date which can range from 1-3 years according to the FDA.

History of Sexual Lubrication

When you scan the long list of sex lubricants available today, you’ll find lubes for almost every possible purpose, personality, or need.

Lubes for certain toys, lubes specifically for anal sex, vagina-friendly lubes, flavored lubes—the list goes on and on. Of course, having so much variety in lube is a luxury unique to the modern world.

So when did people start using sexual lubricants anyway, and how did we get to where we are today?

Some of the earliest historical mentions of lube date back to around 350 BCE.


Not surprisingly, some of these mentions came from the ancient Greeks and Romans, who were famous for having pretty liberal views and attitudes toward sex.

Olive oil was an accessible, cheap, and slippery substance available at the time and it is thought to have been used as one of the first sexual lubricants in the world.

It was even mentioned by Aristotle (who incorrectly believed that it would also work as a contraceptive).

The Japanese may have beat the Greeks to lube, though.

Some accounts suggest that, hundreds of years earlier in Japan, a lubricant was created by boiling seaweed to create a slippery, gelatinous substance called carrageenan.

Believe it or not, carrageenan is actually still used in a lot of modern-day lubes because it is natural, slippery, and water-soluble.

Over time, new types of all-natural lube showed up. For example, in 17th century Japan, tororo-jiru emerged as a new lube made from grated yams.

Around the same time, pure clove oil showed up as another lube alternative. While yam-based lubes are no longer a thing, clove oil (in tiny amounts) can still be found in some modern-day products because it has relaxing and desensitizing properties.

Lube as we know it today showed up as a consumer product sometime early in the 20th century after the discovery of silicone and petroleum jelly (both of which were invented for non-sexual purposes, but were later adopted as lubes due to their slick properties).

The evolution of sexual lubrication continues to this day.

Manufacturers are formulating, testing, and creating all kinds of fascinating lubes that can be used to enhance the sexual experience.

For example, Promescent Organic lube is created with natural agents like aloe, hemp, and green tea, all of which can be great for delicate or sensitive skin.

The Importance of Sex Lube for Personal Wellness

Demonstration applying sexual lubrication

Sexual lubricants can be a lot of fun and can add an element of novelty to sex, especially lubes designed to offer different flavors and sensations.

Check out the all of the quality personal lubricants available from Promescent.

However, sex lube is worth considering for more than just the novelty factor—it can also contribute to personal wellness.

Personal wellness and sex lube

Some of the potential wellness benefits of lubricant use include:

1. Making sex—and masturbation—more pleasurable and enjoyable.

Perhaps the biggest way that lube has the potential to enhance personal wellness is by making sexual activity feel even better.

Regardless of your gender, reaching orgasm during masturbation or sex usually involves repeated movement or manipulation of the genitalia in some form or fashion.

Some activities involve a lot more friction than others and, without sufficient lubrication (natural or artificial), this can sometimes get a little uncomfortable, maybe even painful.

Lube is formulated with ingredients to keep the skin moist, reduce skin-to-skin or skin-to-toy friction, and keep everything moving smoothly.

Whether you're masturbating with your hands or fingers, using a sex toy of some type, or having vaginal or anal intercourse, lube has the potential to make the whole situation even more enjoyable by increasing comfort.

2. Set your mind free to focus on the experience at hand.

Both men and women produce their own forms of natural lubrication when sexually aroused, with small amounts of pre-ejaculate released by the penis and (typically) much larger amounts of lubrication released by the vagina.

In other words, our bodies seem to know that some amount of lube is important for sex.

However, different people’s bodies produce different amounts of natural lubrication, and the amount produced can vary over time and across situations.

This inconsistency in the way our bodies respond sometimes creates anxiety.

For example, some women naturally get “wetter” than others, and the amount of natural vaginal lubrication produced tends to decrease with age.

If a woman starts to worry about whether she’s “wet enough,” this can reduce arousal by pulling her out of the moment, while simultaneously making sex less comfortable.

Having sex lube on hand, or even applying it early on during sex with a partner (or during masturbation), can eliminate distracting thoughts and allow sex to proceed uninterrupted.

Why Women Should Consider Sex Lube

For many years, there was some degree of stigma attached to women using lube.

The thought was that if she had to use lube during sex, there must be something wrong with her—maybe she wasn't turned on enough, or perhaps she just wasn't into her partner.

Thankfully, using sex lube has been destigmatized for women today, and it’s widely accepted that use of lube is a sexual enhancer for everyone, not the sign of some underlying problem.

Percentage of people who have used sexual lubricants

In a nationally representative US study of more than 1,000 women, most (65.5%) said they had used lubricant before during sex, with the most common reasons being to make sex more comfortable and pleasurable, to reduce pain or discomfort, and because it’s fun.

It’s normal for women to use lube—and for it to make sex better.

The same is true for men. A similar national US study of 1,014 men found that most (70%) had also used lube before and that the most common reasons they did so were to enhance comfort, to have fun, because they were curious about it, or because their partner wanted it.

In short, regardless of gender, lube can enhance sex. However, there are at least a few reasons why women may benefit from lube use even more than men.


Women may be more at risk of injury and discomfort due to lack of lubrication than men.

Lubrication is great any time you are trying to pleasure a penis or a vagina. However, women can be a bit more prone to irritation and injury without proper lubrication than men.

For one thing, a lack of lubrication can result in tears or abrasions to the internal lining of the vagina, which can be quite painful.

This also has the potential to increase a woman’s risk of contracting STIs, including HIV.

Also, if condoms are used and there is a lack of lubrication, this can increase the risk of condom breakage, which ups the odds of unintended pregnancy.

Using sex lube ensures smooth, easy entry into the vagina while minimizing risks to her health.

Natural vaginal lubrication can sometimes take a while to kick in.

Both men and women go through a cycle of physiological changes when they get aroused.

In men, blood vessels to the penis dilate, increasing blood flow and allowing for an erection.

Women also experience changes in blood flow to the genitals, which allows the vaginal canal to lengthen and expand. At the same time, lubrication is secreted through the vaginal walls.

However, lubrication isn’t always consistent—sometimes more or less is released and sometimes it takes longer to get going.

Drizzling on some artificial sexual lubrication can help fill in any gaps so that she is ready to go when she wants to be.

Also, for women who have chronic issues with vaginal dryness due to health conditions, medication use, or changes in hormone levels, store-bought lubes may be essential for safe, pleasurable, and consistent sexual experiences.

When and How to Effectively Use Sex Lube Products

Using sex lube is not rocket science: just open the container, apply to your desired parts, and enjoy. However, there are a few important guidelines to remember about when and how to use sex lube properly.

1. When to Apply Sex Lube

There are no one-size-fits-all rules on when sex lube should be applied. If you’re masturbating, you can apply before you get started or whenever you feel the need to apply it.

Some women may find advantages in adding lube before they get started with solo play (especially if they’re doing something that involves vaginal insertion) because the wetness allows for immediate sensations and possible penetration.

During a sexual encounter with a partner, adding sex lubricants to the mix early on can be part of foreplay—and it can make the experience hotter. In fact, just the process of adding lube can be arousing in and of itself.

Plus, the different types of lube available can be a lot of fun to experiment with. For example:

Try experimenting with sexual lubricants
  • Flavored sex lubes used on either partner can add a novelty to oral sex.
  • Cooling or warming lubes can bring different sensations to finger play.
  • Partners can take turns adding lube to different sex toys and using them on each other.

Lube may also be used as an aid for longer intercourse sessions—in fact, research has shown that sex tends to last longer with lube.

Research shows sex last longer with lube

Keep a bottle or tube of lube nearby during sex and if things start to feel dry at any point, you can always add a bit more.

2. How Much Sex Lube to Use

With lube, a little can go a long way.

However, the exact amount needed depends on your personal preferences, which activities you’re engaging in, and which kind of lube you’re using.

For example, one would likely use a lot more lube (and reapply more often) during anal sex than they would during solo masturbation.

Also, if you’re using a more slippery type (more on this below), you might not need as much as if you use a lube that dries out faster.

Odds are, you’ll need to experiment a bit to find the right lube—and just the right amount of it.

Of course, there can be too much of a good thing—and overuse of lube has the potential to detract from the experience.

You might be using too much lube if:

  • You end up with pools of it on your sheets or on the floor
  • You find that you and/or your partner’s genital sensitivity levels are lowered
  • You can't get traction during sex because you're slipping and sliding all over

Sometimes slipping and sliding all over is the point—think naked slip-and-slide meets naked wrestling. However, if that’s the goal, you might invest in some vinyl or plasticized bed protectors with inflatable perimeters to minimize cleanup.

With all of that said, it is always best to take a look at the included product guidelines and recommendations before you start pouring.

Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions and tips. For example, some sex lube products designed to create certain sensations will have specific guidelines about how much should be used.

Also, some lubes are more prone to staining than others (which may be a concern if you have expensive sheets), and some may contain potential allergens.

For this reason, it’s important do so some research first and select the right lube for you.

3. Pick the Best Sex Lube for You and Your Sex Life

This third rule is a big one. You do have to be mindful of what kind of lube you pick, which can be tough because there are seemingly a million different sex lube products to choose from.

In general, though, you will see roughly four types of sex lube based on the primary ingredient(s).

Which lube is the best for you

Oil-based lube

Oil-based lube tends to be the longest lasting. It is kind of like the gift that keeps on giving.

One application can potentially last through a lot of play; however, it’s not ideal for all purposes.

For instance, oil-based lube should not be used with a latex condom because it can heighten the risk of the condom breaking.

Plus, some oil-based lubes can increase the risks of vaginal infections (oils can trap bacteria), they can be hard to wash off of your body, and they have the potential to stain clothing and bedding.

Water-based lube

Water-based sex lube tends to be the go-to option for most lube-lovers because it is the most versatile.

Water-based products are less likely to cause a negative or allergic reaction due to their chemical composition.

Beyond that important fact, water-based lube can be paired with most sex toys and condoms, regardless of what they’re made of.

The downside, however, is that they don’t last as long and some of them can get sticky.

You may have to apply a water-based lube a little more often or use more of it to start; however, this can also depend on the composition of the product.

Not all water-based lubes are the same.

Silicone-based lube

Silicone-based lubes are generally safe to use with latex condoms.

Plus, the lube stands up incredibly well if you are having some sexy fun in a shower or bath because it is water-resilient and does not dissolve so easily (although beware that it can make your floor just as slippery as your body!).

The lube is also hypoallergenic, meaning it’s unlikely to cause skin reactions (although, of course, keep in mind that everyone and their bodies can respond to different substances in different ways).

The biggest downfall of silicone lube is that it cannot be paired with silicone sex toys, and MANY sex toys are made out of silicone including lots of dildos and male masturbators.

The silicone can break down the surface of the sex toy and leave it more likely to harbor germs and bacteria.

Organic Lube

Organic lube is just what it sounds like: it is a sex lube made from natural, organic ingredients. This is a growing class of lubricants on the market today.

You can find lubes created with all kinds of natural agents that create slipperiness.

Some of these are oil based (e.g., olive oil, coconut oil), whereas others may be water-based and contain additional plant-based ingredients (e.g., aloe vera).

Natural lubes serve up a lot of perks for the health-conscious and many pair well with sex toys and condoms.

However, no matter what lube you go with, be sure to check the ingredient list for compatibility with your body and with your desired uses.

Potential Dangers of Using Sexual Lubricants

Sexual lubricants are generally safe; however, a few risks may exist if you are not using the best type of lubricants for your body or if you are choosing the wrong lubricants to coincide with another product you are using, as noted above.

To minimize any potential safety risks, be sure to follow these guidelines:

  1. Opt for high-quality sex lube products from a reliable, responsible manufacturer—don’t just jump for the first or cheapest thing you find. Do some research.
  1. Look at the ingredients before purchasing or using a new sex lube to make sure you do not have sensitivities to the materials. You might also want to apply a dab of the product to your skin before using during sex to ensure you don’t have a reaction—and also to test how it feels so that you can gauge how much you might need when you get intimate.
  1. Read and follow usage recommendations provided by the manufacturer.
  1. Clean the lube off of your genitals and your sex toys after use.
  1. Check the expiration date on the lube before use.

Women may have a few unique concerns about using lube compared to men because some lubes have the potential to alter the pH balance of the vagina, which can increase the risk of irritation or infection.

To minimize this possibility, look for lubes that have a pH balance that is as close as possible to that of the vagina.

The typical pH level of the vagina is between 3.8 and 4.5. Certain lubes have ingredients that will disrupt this natural balance, so it may be best to stay away from lubes that contain potential irritating agents such as glycerin, nonoxynol-9, or sugars.

Finding the Best Sex Lubricants

Shopping for sex lubes can be a lot of fun.

You can find lubes that do not just add wetness, but also deliver new sensations like warming, tingling, or cooling.

Flavored lubes can also be an interesting addition to your foreplay endeavors.

However, do be advised that lubes designed to offer different sensations may increase the risk of skin irritation. This doesn’t mean you should be afraid of them—just do your due diligence and follow the guidelines discussed above.

When shopping for such a personal product, you do want to make sure you end up with the best. The highest-quality lubes will generally be:

  • Colorless
  • Paraben-free
  • Certified safe by the FDA
  • Made in the USA
  • Odorless

Look for a reputable manufacturer that offers all the pertinent information about their products. Ingredient lists should be clearly visible, for example, and you will want to know whether the lube is pH balanced.

Takeaways: The Best Sex Lube Can Change Everything for the Better

Couple kissing and getting ready to use sex lube

There you have it: everything you needed to know about how to use sex lube and why.

The right lube can enhance everything from solo play with or without a sex toy to partnered activities including anal sex, foreplay, and vaginal intercourse.

Take your time to pick the best products for your body and your plans, have some fun, and see how lube can heighten the sexual experience from start to finish.

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Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Dr. Justin Lehmiller

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He is author of the blog Sex and Psychology and the popular book Tell Me What You Want: The Science of Sexual Desire and How It Can Help You Improve Your Sex Life. He is also a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works, including a textbook titled The Psychology of Human Sexuality that is used in college classrooms around the world. Dr. Lehmiller is one of the media's go-to experts on sex and has been interviewed by The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and CNN; he has also appeared on dozens of radio, podcast, and television programs.


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